“…as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Romans 1:17). The seventh occurrences of ‘pistis/faith’ in Paul’s Letter, To The Romans.
It is the prophet Habakkuk that Paul references now in furthering his development and understanding of ‘dikaios’. Counted among the Old Testament Twelve Books of The ‘Minor Prophets’, this is one of the most under(over)looked Biblical writings. Yet, Paul with his extensive knowledge of prophetic scripture uses ‘buried treasure’ to unearth this deeper meaning of law= just =righteous.
“The oracle of God which Habakkuk the prophet saw… How long shall I cry… Violence! … Why dost thou make me see wrongs… So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. …For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted.” “Write the vision; …Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
A fundamental tool for the Preacher, pastor, theologian is the ‘Interpreter’s Bible’. America is consumed with crime law TV and a typical scene in any law office is the Jurist seated at his desk surrounded by his law book sources. The next time that you visit a Pastor’s study, look around the shelves at his personal collection of books. The 12 volume Interpreter’s Bible should be there. Apart from the wonderful range of theologians who have contributed to the writing of this collection, most important for me is that it remains the only Bible that I have found which parallels the two major translations used by The Church. I also value The Introduction sections written on each book of scripture and continue to use it as primary reference.
A wonderful discovery is to find that Howard Thurman has written the Exposition for the Interpreter’s Bible commentary on Habakkuk. (I did say under(over) looked?) Dr. Thurman’s exposition on verse 2:4 (which Paul has quoted here), has the lead title ‘Timetables’ and includes this statement: “Here is a radical contrast. The just, the righteous man waits in anticipation. He is active, but his activity is from within the timetable of God’s plan. Not so with the faithless oppressor, the impious man. He is arrogant, full of idle boasting, ever trying to bolster up a sagging self-respect. That he can never do by the methods he is using; but a part of his sickness is his inability to realize this fact. It is not an accident that Christianity never tires of warning against the sin of pride and inculcating the virtue of humility.”
Paul has unearthed a gem of scripture in his untiring, unending quest to define ‘dikaios’ for Christianity. It is clearly; never a ‘throwing out of (God’s) Law’, but, placing it back in it’s original context: God (Christ)— contingent upon LIVING BY FAITH! This ‘living by faith’ is ‘active anticipation’ that at any given moment the ‘Righteousness of God’ will be seen. And, it is not finished for we will look again at this same quoting of the prophet Habakkuk in Paul’s Letter to The Galatians.
I have experienced so may individuals of late who speak the word ‘depressed’ in their self estimation. This word from Habakkuk to Paul to Howard Thurman is one for you— today! Amidst the violence, slacked laws, blatant injustice, perversions, illusions, discontent; “how long shall I cry…”? Through it all— LIVE! Live by FAITH. Live by faithful ANTICIPATION— that morning by morning, each new day’s dawning, ‘God’s Timetable’ is working.